Converge Lecture Series brings big names and big ideas to the Springs

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Poet Marie Howe will present Converge Lecture Series' first lecture on Oct. 1
  • Poet Marie Howe will present Converge Lecture Series' first lecture on Oct. 1
Samuel Stephenson, founder of the Converge Lecture Series, says that in this “season of American history,” hostility can discourage meaningful conversation. The goal of the series is to bring artists and authors to our local community to discuss topics spanning political, educational and spiritual disciplines, generating genuine discussion.

“I think that artists have an ability to spark real conversation that’s [more] nuanced than conversation I’m seeing happening right now,” Stephenson says.

The series will bring nationally recognized thinkers to Colorado Springs to give quarterly lectures, with occasional locally focused speaking events. This year, each speaker will address the topic of moral beauty.

“I’m interested in the question [of moral beauty] because it’s an ethical question and an aesthetics question,” Stephenson says. “Can you have ethical action that is pleasing or beautiful?”

The first speaker in the series, poet Marie Howe, will give her lecture at the Pinery at the Hill on Oct. 1, setting the stage for the following speakers in 2018: George Saunders (Feb. 4), Richard Blanco (May 6), Junot Díaz (Aug. 5) and Edwidge Danticat (Nov. 4).

Stephenson says that he and his board selected these speakers for the range of diverse disciplines, perspectives and opinions they represent. “My hope is that the topic and the speakers have a significant enough range and broad enough ideas that it can bring a lot of different viewpoints to the table,” he says.

He hopes that keeping the topic open-ended — and removing focus from hot-button issues like immigration and abortion — can “create room for a lot of values to come together in the same room, and maybe [we can] learn how to practice disagreement in a meaningful way.”

In a way, the Converge Lecture Series is meant to facilitate the convergence of ideas, though its title actually comes from a short story by Flannery O’Connor: Everything that Rises Must Converge.

“Her idea behind that,” Stephenson says, “was all good things come together in time, even seeming opposites.”

See below for more about the series’ upcoming presenters:

Marie Howe - October 1, 2017
Marie Howe is the author of four volumes of poetry, Magdalene: Poems; The Kingdom of Ordinary Time; The Good Thief; and What the Living Do, and she is the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others. She has been a fellow at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and a recipient of NEA and Guggenheim fellowships, and Stanley Kunitz selected Howe for a Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the American Academy of Poets. In 2015, she received the Academy of American Poets Poetry Fellowship which recognizes distinguished poetic achievement. From 2012-2014, she served as the Poet Laureate of New York State.

George Saunders - February 4, 2018
George Saunders has published over twenty short stories and numerous Shouts & Murmurs in The New Yorker since first appearing in the magazine, in 1992. His work includes the short-story collections “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” (a finalist for the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award), “Pastoralia,” “In Persuasion Nation” (a finalist for the Story Prize), “Tenth of December” (a finalist for the National Book Award and recipient of the Folio Prize), “Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness,” and “Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel.” Saunders has won prizes for his best-selling children’s book, “The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip,” and for a book of essays entitled “The Braindead Megaphone,” and he has been featured in the “O. Henry Prize Stories,” “Best American Short Stories,” “Best American Nonrequired Reading,” “Best American Travel Writing,” and “Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy” anthologies. Named by The New Yorker one of the best American writers under the age of forty in 1999, Saunders has received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Richard Blanco - May 6, 2018
Richard Blanco is the fifth inaugural poet in US history—the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban-exiled parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity and place characterize his body of work. He is the author of three poetry collections: Looking for the Gulf Motel, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, and City of a Hundred Fires; and two memoirs: The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey. The University of Pittsburgh Press has published the commemorative chapbooks One Today, Boston Strong, and Matters of the Sea, the last of which Blanco read at the historic reopening of the US Embassy in Havana. In 2015, the inaugural poem One Today was released as a children’s book, in collaboration with the renowned illustrator, Dav Pilkey.

Junot Díaz - August 5, 2018
JUNOT DÍAZ was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. He is the co-founder of the Voices of Our National Arts Foundation. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and a Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at MIT. His forthcoming book, Islandborn, will be released by Dial in the spring of 2018.

Edwidge Danticat - November 4, 2018

Edwidge Danticat is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah’s Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, and The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner, and the novel-in-stories, The Dew Breaker. She is the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Diaspora in the United States and The Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and Cultures, Haiti Noir and Haiti Noir 2, and Best American Essays 2011. She has written six books for young adults and children, Anacaona, Golden Flower, Behind the Mountains, Eight Days, The Last Mapou, Mama’s Nightingale, and Untwine, as well as a travel narrative, After the Dance, A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel. Her memoir , Brother, I’m Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. Her most recent book, The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story was published by Graywolf Press in July 2017. She is a 2009 MacArthur Fellow.

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